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Mapping Mangroves for Our Carbon Future

A new study of 35 countries maps out the amount of carbon stored by mangrove ecosystems in various parts of the world in hopes of learning from the mangrove’s elusive carbon-storing system courtesy of Mother Nature.

Mapping these mangrove hotspots is critical to our energy future, scientists say, because understanding how they store carbon could unlock future energy secrets, while safeguarding these gems will be of vast importance.

The new model used by the researchers enabled them to map the variations among the world’s mangrove forests and pinpoint those areas with the most carbon.

All mangroves are important for storing carbon, but some that ranked particularly high in the study include forests in Sumatra, Borneo and New Guinea, on the Pacific coast of Colombia, and in Northern Ecuador.

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Co-author of the study, Mark Spalding, senior marine scientist at The Nature Conservancy, opines that we need to think long and hard about preserving this natural carbon sequestration and all the other benefits mangroves offer.

“On average, mangroves have double the living biomass of tropical forests overall. This means that if you want to slow carbon emissions, one of the first places you could look would be in the mangroves. Stop an acre of loss here, and you will achieve a much bigger win than in many other areas,” Spalding wrote.

All plants capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their leaves, roots, trunks  and surrounding soil. But the mangrove takes this a step further. Unlike most other forests, mangrove soils do not have a maximum storage capacity, but keep on storing carbon in the soil, for centuries or even millennia. The result is that mangroves actively contribute to mitigating climate change by continuously removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

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The researchers’ model indicates that mangroves contain 1.6% of the total tropical forest biomass, even though they occupy only 0.6% of the total tropical forest area.

When mangrove forests are cut down for timber, or converted to agriculture or to aquaculture ponds, almost all their carbon is released into the atmosphere. Their very high biomass means that clearing even small tracts of mangrove generates high volumes of CO2.

So the mangrove has the ability to be either a creator or a destroyer, depending on whether mangrove forests are destroyed or preserved, with its secrets put research and development use.

By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com




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Leave a comment
  • bmz on October 23 2013 said:
    "When mangrove forests are cut down for timber, or converted to agriculture or to aquaculture ponds, almost all their carbon is released into the atmosphere."
    You missed the millions of acres of mangroves cleared in south Florida for resorts and residences.

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